Reply To: 26.5.2014 Ancient Futures

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Anonymous # Posted on May 27, 2014 at 13:38

Wenzel Steinig – Reflection on question about “Ancient Futures” by Helena Norberg-Hodge


Is localisation good for every country considering the population, socioeconomic development?

I find that I can only answer this question in a contentfull way, if I define some of the terms used in this question in my own way and then give my answer against the backdrop of these definitions.
Localisation: Closing economic and regionalising energy and consumption cycles. In the transition movement seen as the attempt to derive at least 50% of resources used in a settlement (village-town-city) from the region this settlement is located in. Not necessarily opposed to Globalisation, as a considerable part of the exchange system (includes also information and social exchange) remains national and international. Important aims: Reconnecting people and their lives to one another and the place they live in and sustainable local (subsistence) economies, that gain resilience through being partly autonomous and connected through decentralised networks, both on the regional and global level.
Good: What do we need to live a happy live? People who are happy use show the following characteristics: A vibrant social life with both time for others and for themselfes, enough to eat, clothes and shelter and, of course, health. We have all that, but why aren’t we happy with what we have? Why are we – more or less unintendedly – destroying nature and each others lives?
Population and socioeconomic development:
The word socioeconomic is interesting. According to usual definitions it describes the interaction between social and economic factors in a society. Actually it is quite an empty notion.
Economy is nothing else then the mutual exchanges people do every day and the way this relates to the resources available in a system: A notion for the resource management in a society. Using the Gross Domestic Product as an indicator is thus strange and displaced.
Social factors contain amongst others the popluation distribution, wealth distribution (both money and objects – capital) and the level of education. But, if we were measuring these, it could also contain factors like happyness and well-being: A notion for the psychological and interpersonal state of the members of a society and social capital distribution.

Now there are different scenarios which could help answering the actual question.
1) Think of a society that already has a high degree of localisation, but at the same time a high degree of social injustice and social-capital accumulation as well as unjust resource distribution schemes.
It might be that this society is’nt going to better its situation by localising even further, as it might have build up its social fabric on the foundation of locality. But at the same time we have to see that the term localisation also embraces individual empowerment and partly independence from the global economy. Such a society would thus not be fully localised, as centralisation and accumulation, also on small scales, go against the notion of localisation.
2) Another scenario could be a country with a low degree of localisation, a high population density and a low natural resource density – a society that could not live of the land within its national borders.
First of all, national borders are a highly questionable invention that seperates people more than necessary. It has created a reality that takes it for granted that by walking two meters on ground, you can leave your country and enter another. I don’t think it is a problem per se that we create virtual borders, as these also exist between animals (hunting grounds) and naturally between people (feeling of privacy), but our state borders are stiff and deanimated borders. They encourage unnatural behaviour, like high import rates (Japan) and debit creation as well as resource exploitation, because they artificially seperate people from their land. A good example for this are enclaves, which rely on the help of their mother country, although they might be situated in a lush and resourceful environment. Localisation strives to makes these borders fuzzy ad see how we all are deeply intertwined in an web of responsibilities which are strongest in our direct environment.
3) A poor country, that is underdeveloped and has a high percentage of people who cannot afford localisation.
“Affording localisation” is a term that neglects the true core of localisation. Localisation means to simplify things, to put back into the hands of people the coverage of basic needs. Every human being in the world has roughly the same amount of time to spend every day: 24 hours minus the sleeping hours. Some have more natural responsibilities, some less: Having 6 children, for example, makes you more responsible than being a single household, as more of your time is predetermined. But if we look at the social systems in places like the Ladakh villages, we see, that such time consuming responsibilities are shared. Everybody helps in taking care. At the same time, enough food for the rest of the year is produced in the impressively short growing season of 4 month. And all of this is happening almost without any use of money, the people doing is are virtually very poor. But actually, they are very rich, they have what they need and even a lot of free time. My point here is that, in our society, we are creating schemes that discourage social buffer zones, network based mutual exchange and moneyless self supply. Only by this it can become a problem to be poor. In the city, where most of the poor people live, there is no space to take care of your own. In the countryside, big amounts of land are idle or, if exceptionally fertile, blocked by large agricultural firms. A promise of wealth and social status dynamics pull people to cities and keep them there.

Localisation is not a blueprint solution for the world. Instead, it is supposed to be a dynamic, costumisable idea about what factors are important in building a sustainable and fair society. Over the world, there are currently thousands of different ideas and approaches of localisation working, some as old as mankind, some recently created. The way a family and family networks are distributing capital without using money, friendship and kindship realtions and modern echange circles, collective resource pooling and transition towns are examples of how localisation has accompanied us since time immemorial.
It is true that a certain degree of intersocietal moral and legal regulations are important to create a common sense, so that exchange systems don’t fall back into a largely tribal or kinship based scheme. But I think that we went to far with these regulative, control oriented, meta-measures and that they consume the interpersonal part of our society, motivating behaviour that is partly alienating us from easy and anticipative solutions for our everyday problems.